The human resources policy in an organization is a set of rules that defines the duties and responsibilities, privileges and rights, and guidelines for conduct expected of employees.
There are many HR policies that organizations can adapt to meet their needs. Some companies have very few policies while others have several hundred or more.
HR managers should understand why such workplace policies are crucial for HR operations; what they should include; how they should organize; when they should update; who updates them; how often management should review HR policies and communicate to employees as well as other stakeholders such as trade unions. The new employee doesn't know the rules unless you have HR policies in place.
It’s always difficult starting your first job with no idea about the company’s culture or expectations of employee behavior. To help you avoid any confusion, we have come up with a blog post that lists sample HR policies to follow in order to ease the onboarding process.
14 Essential HR Policies and Practices
Here is the list of 14 essential HR policies and practices that HR professionals and experts use:
1. At-will Employment
Employers can terminate employees at any time, with or without cause and with or without notice. This is the policy that puts employees and their organization on the same page. Employees should not expect any job security beyond their current moment in time; in addition, they can leave on account of a logical reason.
2. Breach of Contract
Employers can terminate employees for breaching company policies, such as being late to work without permission or damaging company property and items belonging to other members of staff. This policy protects employers against unjustified termination claims.
Looking to become an HR expert? Enroll in our top-rated human resources certifications to master mandatory HR skills so you can excel in your career growth:
3. Non-Compete, Confidentiality, and Employment Contracts
All employees must sign these agreements. It is a legal requirement for any company with more than 25 people in its workforce or that does not have an HR department (which requires signatories at least once per month).
You can update these contracts when necessary, but always include clauses preventing disclosure of confidential information related to the business, among other topics such as intellectual property rights issues.
It’s important for each employee who signs these documents to understand them before signing them because if for some reason they are broken, there are legal consequences.
4. Accidents and Injuries
This safety policy states that the employer or the company shall provide a safe and healthy environment to its employees and that the company shall see to any form of injury, workplace violence, or harassment right away.
It complies with state and federal laws. Moreover, each employee has the right to stay safe, which increases the goodwill of the employer.
The health and safety policy states that in case an employee is injured at work, employers should provide them access to medical care as soon as possible. In fact, they should report it to their supervisor and fill out all the necessary forms.
If due to a job-related injury, an employee is not able to work and misses some days of work, employers must compensate them under the Workers' Compensation Act. Furthermore, the OSHA law requires organizations to maintain incident reports.
5. Job Reassignment
This policy deals with employees who become disabled due to illness, injury, or pregnancy, and it requires employers to offer them a modified position (a job modification) if one becomes available. It is in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Each organization has to follow applicable laws to protect employees' civil liberty.
If there isn’t one, then the employer will reassign them for another suitable position without loss of pay or employee benefits when their condition improves so long as this doesn't result in additional expense for the organization.
Job reassignment imparts a sense of security and comfort to a temporarily-disabled employee.
6. Nursing Mothers
The lactation policy is designed to ensure that nursing mothers can express milk at work and provide it for their children without fear of being harassed or discriminated against by coworkers, supervisors, customers, visitors, or other business associates.
7. Attendance and Leave
An attendance policy is part of an HR department's overall human resource management strategy. It deals with employees notifying their immediate supervisors before taking time off, absenteeism, and tardiness.
Life doesn't work in a straight line that's why we can never anticipate sickness or other emergencies before they happen. Therefore, having a good attendance policy in place is vital.
Don’t forget to be kind. When their leaves are up, they might need more time off. Know that some courts have ruled that leave may qualify as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Make sure to seek out professional advice and guidance if this is something of concern so employers can meet all their obligations in accordance with laws like ADA or Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
We should have a clear, concise, and up-to-date written policy for FMLA to cover a company. A good example of this is Miami based employment attorney Lisa Berg with Stearns Weaver Miller who says that they need an updated document that covers:
- Eligibility requirements under the leave act (FMLA);
- How time off will be calculated;
- Notice rules when employees request time off from work due to illness or injury;
- Medical certification guidance about what needs documentation in order to take insured leaves on behalf of their employers;
- Steps needed by workers while they are out including eligibility for benefits during periods as well as fitness for duty verification.
Prior notification to the immediate supervisor or HR department that the employee will not join work is part of the leave policy. If they want to apply for sick leave and they can't do it themselves, they should ask someone else to do it on their behalf.
The employee handbook must contain the mission, vision, and a set of company policies to date.
8. Code of Conduct
Dress codes are often created to ensure a professional appearance for employees of an organization. Some organizations have very specific dress code requirements that employees must follow at all times, while others will allow some flexibility in what they wear. It often helps to state what an 'official attire' means to the company.
It also includes employee conduct guidelines within an organization; laying them down in writing, the acceptable and non-acceptable actions is what helps the most.
9. Workplace Harassment
Workplace harassment policy deals with any kind of unwelcome or unwanted behavior by one person against another individual at work. It can take many different forms, such as verbal abuse and/or offensive jokes; physical contact like touching or pinching; inappropriate sexual remarks or gestures; deliberate intimidation from someone who wants to stop you from doing your job because they don't think women should do it, etc., but this list is not exhaustive.
All types of workplace harassment are unlawful and should be accompanied by disciplinary action.
The most effective harassment policy defines what the term means and outlines how it require prompt dealing, for instance:
"Harassment includes any form of behavior that makes you or your colleagues feel uncomfortable. If an individual feels harassed they should tell their manager who may help them find a permanent solution."
Sexual harassment at the workplace is common and this policy protects individuals against each other so the normal workflow remains intact.
10. Conflict of Interest
This policy outlines the rules regarding an employee's personal interest challenging the interest of the company. Examples of such activities include:
- Increase in a competitor's sales through your employee's activities
- An employee uses their company status for personal gains
- An employee using company's property to facilitate an external business
11. Vacation and Paid Time OFF (PTO)
Employees should have the opportunity for at least 20 days off per year or an average of five weeks of vacation annually.
Paid time OFF (PTO) can be accumulated and taken as one continuous block when it occurs.
The employer may ask employees to take their PTO as they like; this includes being able to use annual leave, sick leave, personal day(s), bereavement day(s), public holidays, etc., however not more than 40% of the total amount accrued in any given 12 month period.
12. Benefits and Perks
Employees must identify perks and benefits up-front. This includes things like health insurance, retirement plans (401k), paid time OFF (PTO) that is provided by the company or as part of a union contract, etc.
The employer may also identify, where possible, any financial incentives they have for differentiating themselves from other companies in their field. Eligibility toward awards and bonuses is what workers are looking for.
Benefits include any items not related to salary: dental coverage, vacation days/time off allotment, PTO policy/days per year allotted with pay, sick leave accrual rates and specific HR policies around them; holiday leave availability and time utilized each calendar year with compensation; free lunches on work dates every week or month - and the list goes on.
- The employee handbook with all the HR policies can become confusing to employees.
- The employer should identify what is and isn't included in the benefits package.
13. Employee Termination and Resignation
The employer should also mention what the time frames are for termination or resignation. The rulebook should include an explanation of all employment laws, including those that apply to discriminatory practices and payroll deductions. HR professionals must become aware of such HR policies to construct for their own company.
Employers might have specific steps they follow when terminating employees, such as a formal meeting with HR and the employee in question before announcing dismissal from their position.
Employees must give give a two-week notice if they intend to resign from their position (unless it will affect the company).
In some cases, employers require new hires to sign arbitration agreements that state disputes between them, and the company won't go through legal proceedings but rather through private mediation sessions instead.
14. Social Media Policy
As part of the social media policy, assure that the personal opinions of employees don’t represent their company. We recommend using a disclaimer such as “opinions are my own” to avoid misunderstandings with other people who might think they are authorized or endorsed by the company they work for.
Use this opportunity to clarify if something is just a solid opinion and not based on facts, which will help give more context about what has been said and prevent confusion in future conversations.
In order to give a good impression, don't use anything that could offend someone upon overhearing it.
Coming to the end of this article, we hope you now have a good idea of some essential HR policies and practices to implement in your business whether it is a small business or a larger one. Keep the following list, and review them for best practices:
- Criminatory Practices
- Payroll Deductions
- Employee Termination
- Resignation Processes
- Arbitration Agreements
These human resource policies in employee handbooks set expectations between employees and employers; their roles are clearer, helping everyone to work. In addition, LinkedIn is a good resource to check out some out-of-the-box articles on HR policies.
What are some policies that you follow in your company? Which policies are you still in the process of implementing? Share with us your thoughts, and feel free to get in touch if we can help.
We hope this article was helpful for you. Now go ahead, write some HR policies using this template.
If you are new to Human Resources and are looking to break into an HR role, we recommend taking our HR Certification Courses, where you will learn how to build your skillset in human resources, build your human resources network, craft a great HR resume, and create a successful job search strategy.
Josh Fechter is the founder of HR.University. He’s a certified HR professional and has managed global teams across 5 different continents including their benefits and payroll. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.